Quote of the Moment

"It's never wrong to hope, Byx," said my mother. "Unless the truth says otherwise."
- from Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Holiday Fog

It's almost Halloween. That means three things:

1 - October's almost over.

2 - November's almost here.

3 - I'm already too far behind on holiday projects.

Fortunately, I know (or at least have a reasonable idea) what I'm doing this year. Unfortunately, I just haven't gotten my tail out to my workshop to start the things.

Instead, I've been reading. Between books I've been reading. But only when I haven't been reading. For some reason, it's the only thing my brain's been able to settle on when it stares at my ever-shifting, always-growing list of Things I Need to Do. I can't really complain - I'm finally past 800 archived reviews on Brightdreamer Books, a goal I didn't think I'd hit until next year - but it's completely devoured everything else I meant to do with September and October. My sketchbook is stagnating, my workshop's feeling lonely, and my room still hasn't been reorganized. I've also had an uncommonly bad run of luck with the books I've picked. Yet I can't seem to stop myself from picking up more.

When I haven't been reading, I've been beating back this year's NaNoWriMo story with a proverbial stick. This one really, really wants to get written, even though I don't have a clue about many pertinent facts... like where the plot really wants to go, how it wants to get there, or what the collateral damage and death toll will be once it arrives. But that doesn't stop my mind from chewing on it to the point of distraction. I finally broke down and wrote some backstory, just to keep my brain from shaking itself to pieces waiting for November 1. (And it gave me a chance to fiddle around with my new writing software, WriteWay Pro. So far, I'm liking it enough to consider paying for the full version; as a habitual cheapskate, that says something.)

Since I'll be forced to put down books for a while anyway, I probably should mosey out to my workshop and get started on those holiday projects. The year's not getting any longer.

If only my list of Things I Need to Do could say the same...

(Photos: The first was from a foggy morning, taken from a post office parking lot before work. The second was a puddle in a grocery store parking lot. And people say I never go anywhere fun...)

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


This year, like every year, I celebrated a birthday. After this one, however, I found myself in possession of a shiny new Kindle.

Like most readers, I've been watching the e-reader revolution with mixed feelings. While part of me worries that the bookstore experience - wandering shelves, happening across new titles, browsing cover blurbs amid the smell of fresh paper – might be going the way of the soda fountain, another part can certainly see the advantages. Packing so many books into one small device… the ability to read thirty-odd pages free on most offerings (which would've saved me a lot of time, money, and general aggravation)… plus, more often than not lately, I've just plain had more luck finding what I want via Amazon than in the local Barnes & Noble. I was intrigued, but with my nonexistent budget I didn't expect I'd actually ever have one.

And now I did.

First things first. The package, once I managed to work it open, contained blissfully few items: a quick-start guide, a USB cable that hooked into a 2-prong adapter for charging, and the Kindle device itself: matte gray, little longer and wider than a mass-market paperback and scarcely as heavy, with a little keyboard and navigation buttons and not much else to confuse me. It was a matter of moments to start the battery charging, and the simple controls easily let me access the on-board instruction manual. The biggest problem was figuring out how to connect it via the household wifi network. We've had issues with the thing in the past, most notably the password and security key (which are not, oddly enough, the same thing; which device wants which one varies, with no sense of logic or certainty.) While a Kindle can operate without wireless internet access, it seemed like it would be happier if it could use the thing. Besides, there's the principle involved; we have wifi, and dang it, I ought to be able to use it!

Long story short, I wound up having to restart the wireless router in order to reset the key. This, incidentally, enabled the CD that came with the router to actually function as it was supposed to, something it had never done even when I bought the thing. Very strange, if fortuitous. (I wonder if this means I can finally get my printer to work on the wireless network... but that's another project for another day.)

That hurdle cleared, I was able to synch up my Kindle with my Amazon account in under half a minute. Yes, my Kindle knows my Amazon user name and password, just as it knows how to use my wifi network. Not the sort of thing your average book could figure out - even the leather-bound deluxe editions.

Now, I needed some content. Fascinating as the user manual was, I foresaw a day on the far horizon when it alone would fail to entertain me. While technically I can shop via the device iitself, I found its controls limiting when it came to browsing; I had trouble running basic searches, even with the keyboard. Well, when in doubt, head back to what you know: a good web browser and a proper computer. Booting up my desktop, I headed to the Amazon website… where I noticed that they had my Kindle device already listed when I logged in.


This being my first experience with the Kindle, I started looking for free books. Fortunately, Amazon has a fairly large selection of free, out-of-copyright titles available for the cheapskate thrifty reader. Now, according to the manual, any title I grabbed could be downloaded to my Kindle in 60 seconds or less. (I could also download it to my PC and drag-and-drop via the USB cable later.) I grabbed a free title at random – the classic Treasure Island, which I'd never gotten around to reading in my youth – to test that claim With a skeptical eye on my e-reader, I clicked.

I must have blinked, because suddenly there was a new addition to the main menu. Treasure Island had appeared almost before my mouse cursor cleared the "Send to my Kindle" button. As someone used to the wait for shipping, or even the wait entailed by the need to drive home from the bookstore, I had to say that this instant gratification was rather cool.

Reading on a screen instead of on a printed page proved a remarkably easy transition; I hardly noticed I was clicking a button instead of turning pages after a while. I could power it off and walk away, then start up right where I'd left off without hunting for scrap paper to serve as a bookmark. I didn't even delve into all the extra options I had – highlighting, adding notes, in-line dictionary definitions for unknown words, adjusting font sizes, and more. It even had a handy progress bar at the bottom, telling me how close I was to the end of the book. (Much more accurate than the old squinting-at-the-spine method.)

In conclusion, while I don't expect the Kindle to replace all of my book purchases, I can certainly see it making a dent in my reading piles. It should also come in handy with the library, as the local library system just launched Kindle compatibility with their e-reading options. It may be a while before I get to exploring that, though, as Amazon still has many more free titles for me to browse... plus some interesting offerings at Baen books, and other places I'm just stumbling across. I've already started the Kindle equivalent of a bookpile... a bookpile that takes up no more space than the Kindle itself.

I think this little device and I are going to get along just fine.